What happened to the women? An analysis of women philosophers’ absence from the philosophical canon

This article is written as a contribution to the discussion addressing the exclusion of women philosophers from the history of philosophy, hence from the philosophical canon. One possible explanation on why women philosophers are excluded from the canon could be that they have not written philosophical works of good quality. This article will discuss the plausibility of this explanation. There seems to be consensus in academic philosophy that canonized texts are good or at least representative philosophy, and students are trained in philosophy trough excerpts from canonical texts. The word canon means “rule” or “guide”, and canonical texts sets the standard for philosophy altogether. But who decides what sort of work is to count as philosophy? This article discuss whether certain features – e.g. dualisms like reason versus emotions and central assumptions like rationality and universalism – combined with the use of certain literary forms, e.g. letters, may have caused some of the exclusion of women philosophers.

Keywords: The philosophical canon, women philosophers, genre and boundaries of philosophy, gender and rationality